Wedding TableOur step-by-step guide on how to create the perfect seating plan – all the tips and advice you need to get started.

1. Decide if you need assigned seating

This is the first question you need to answer. Experts suggest yes, you should have assigned seating if you’re having a formal sit down meal.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Guests prefer it; they like to know where they’ll be sitting and not have to rush for seats.
  • You’re able to seat key family members closer to the wedding party, so have no fear of close relatives feeling hard done by.
  • It means you can seat like-minded people together, improving the chances of them having a good time. If you’re having a three course meal with coffee, guests may be seated for as long as two hours, so it’s important to get guests with the right people.

Finally, it’s helpful for the venue to know where children and vegetarians etc are sitting. If guests have already chosen meal options then you can indicate these too on the copy of the seating chart for the venue.

2. Work out if you need a seating plan, place cards or escort cards

This depends on whether you’re allocating people to specific seats or just to tables. Your seating plan or escort card shows your guest which table to sit at. As you start assigning your guests to tables you’ll see whether you need to allocate to seats or just tables.

Scottish thistle seating plan

Scottish thistle themed seating plan – etsy.com

Escort cards

Escort cards (30+ colour choices) – etsy.com

If you’ve allocated specific seats you’ll then also need place cards at each place setting on the table.

Vintage place cards with mini bunting

Vintage place cards with mini bunting – etsy.com

Handmade personalised place cards

Handmade personalised place cards – etsy.com

3. Start planning how to display your seating arrangement

There are many ideas for seating charts and escort cards that can tie in with your wedding theme or are something personal to the bride and groom. You can use a simple print out of a table plan, or printable escort cards, or get as creative as you like.

Plan a deadline to be finished by, one that doesn’t leave you with ink drying on the morning of the wedding, yet leaves as much time as possible for last minute changes to be incorporated.

4. Make a template of your tables

Use TopTablePlanner to lay out your tables

Use TopTablePlanner to lay out your tables

Ask your venue what number of seats their standard tables hold. Can they supply any tables with a different number of seats? This can be really handy if you have one tricky group who is seeming impossible to seat! Lay out your tables around your room. Your table plan will be your template, onto which you can seat your guests, on multiple versions if you need.

5. Start seating people!

Don’t leave this till the last minute. You can start arranging your guests in good time – many of your invitees will be a definite ‘yes’. Start by placing the obvious people and you’ll find you’ve done a large chunk of your seating assignment already which makes the task seem less stressful.

The easiest way to do this is by using TopTablePlanner. You can quickly add your tables and seat your guests, without worrying that your cat’s going to walk over your scraps of paper! It’s then quick to make last minute changes when those inevitable changes come in at the last minute.

Couple using TopTablePlanner on a laptop

Use TopTablePlanner to arrange your guests and tables.

Seating plan ruined by cat

Your cat will spread those paper guests everywhere! (chelsaluv / Instagram)

Where should you seat people?

A good place to start is with the bride and groom. Are you having a top table? The traditional is a rectangular table, with the wedding party seated along one side only.

Traditional wedding top table

Traditional UK wedding top table layout.

Traditional USA wedding head table layout

Traditional USA wedding head table layout.

You may find that conventional etiquette doesn’t work for your particular family/venue setup, so don’t be afraid to change it as necessary to make sure your families are comfortable. There are plenty of alternative top table layouts including:

Burlap banner for sweetheart table - etsy.com

Burlap banner for sweetheart table – etsy.com

  • A sweetheart table for just the bride and groom;
  • Wedding party members each ‘hosting’ a table;
  • Bride and groom sitting at a different table for each course (remember to leave them space at the right tables in your seating plan);
  • A round table in the middle of the room.

Once you’ve seated the wedding party you can work on the rest of the guests.

Key tips for happy guests

Try and think about who will get on the best with each other.

Make sure everyone knows at least one other person on their table.

Don’t split up couples or create a singles table. Do feel free to very subtly matchmake by combining two groups of friends on a table though.

Think about the table’s position in your venue – easy access to toilets is helpful for those with small children. A quieter table is better for older guests if there will be music later.

Conventionally, closer friends and family will be seated nearer the bride and groom’s table.

Having table names instead of numbers will remove a table ‘hierarchy’ (Great Aunt Mabel complaining that she’s ‘only’ table 8). It also gives you an opportunity to get creative with a theme for the names.

Think about having a children’s table if you have slightly older children (seat the parents nearby though!).

Here are our top tricks

If you’re struggling, these sneaky tricks may help!

  • Start again totally from scratch (or using your table template) and create a Version II, you may find it works better or throws up an interesting solution to one particular problem table;
  • If you have a group of 10 people but tables of eight you may find splitting it into two 5s (or a 6 and a 4) works better for your plan than the obvious 8 and a 2;
  • Get someone else (a sympathetic parent perhaps) to have a quick go for you, you may find a different perspective gives you some new ideas;
  • Try some of the alternative groupings mentioned above, eg, a children’s table, sweetheart table, wedding party hosting tables etc. Alternatively, if you’re already using those, try removing them and putting all the guests back into the mix;
  • Mix and match friends’ tables by breaking up one table onto two. You may find this solves the problem of where to put that lone leftover couple.

And finally, if you do one thing, make sure you choose what will make you and your guests most comfortable!

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A little bit about Adam, founder of TopTablePlanner...

Adam has been working in the wedding industry since 2006. After discovering that arranging the seating is one of the hardest parts of planning a wedding, he launched TopTablePlanner in 2007. See his Google+ profile.